“TUGIRURUKUNDO” SHEEP PROJECT, NYABIHU WOMEN GROUP
Historical Background of the Project
Nyabihu is a district in Western Province, Rwanda, which borders Eastern DR Congo, near Lake Kivu. Mukamira is the main city. The Nyabihu district is known for growing very good tea and great fishing for Tilapia. A group of 24 underprivileged women from a rural church in the surrounding mountain area have named themselves “Tugirurukundo”, a Rwandan word meaning “Let us love one another.” Most of the women work on nearby farms owned by others in order to earn some money for their families. They regularly meet together to pray and encourage one another. Each meeting, they contribute a little of the money they earned to help each other purchase house items, such as eating utensils and fabric for clothing. They have limited resources. One mentioned that they had one outfit for the week and washed it once in preparation for Sunday.
Pastor Isaac, who was trained by TLAfrica, is the pastor of the church that these ladies meet at. He approached the leadership of the Women Empowerment Program and shared the need of the women in his local church. They were interested to be economically empowered to improve their condition of living. Each woman has their own private garden in order to feed their families, and perhaps have enough left over to sell produce at the local market. Manure is essential in growing a fruitful crop. To purchase manure in town it costs 5,000 Rw franks ($5 US) per bag. The number of bags needed each month/year various for each lady based on their gardens and they are not always able to afford what they need. Raising sheep was a favorable idea for them, as it is easy to raise sheep in their location. The sheep graze on the grass and weeds that grow nearby which cuts down the cost of feeding them. Meanwhile, the amount of manure the sheep produce provides ample amounts for the ladies gardens saving them the money and time needed to travel into town to purchase manure from other farmers. And ultimately, it allows them to expand their gardens and harvest more fruitful crops for themselves and to sell in the markets.
TLAfrica gave the group of women a loan to buy 12 ewes to be divided and shared amongst themselves. Two women would pair up to buy one sheep, with arrangement that one woman would keep the ewe until it gave birth to a lamb, then once the lamb is weaned, the mother would be passed to the other partner as they had agreed. This is an expression of true love! So far, 3 of the sheep have given birth (1 with twins!) and 2 are pregnant. The women were faithful with their investments. They have earned enough from selling surplus produce and working on nearby farms and have paid back their loan to TLAfrica. Another happy benefit is that their kids enjoy grazing the sheep near home after school. In fact these days, it has become their hobby since COVID-19 closed the schools down. Parents are happy that it keeps the children home instead of roaming around the community and prevents potential trouble.
The ladies next goal is to lease land in order to cultivate Irish potatoes, using the manure from their sheep.
Mid June 2020, Dr. Faustin, Salome, and Felistus visited the sheep project in Nyabihu, an hour and a half drive from Musanze. By 9:30 am, they were there and were welcomed by the pastor who took them to the women’s homes. It was a house to house visit, no matter how tiresome it was, considering the typography of the land. They climbed hills and went down the mountains with the determination and the agenda of the day: to reach out to each woman in her own home.
The first stop was at the home of Providence Imanishimwe, a 32 year old who is married with three children. “I got the money and immediately, I went to buy the sheep. As a farmer, it has helped me in many activities. I get the organic manure from the sheep, which allows my farm product to grow better.” Providence said that the sheep is pregnant, and will deliver this week, and then after four months, she will give it to her partner in the group who was not present.
Providence with her sheep and her daughter
The next visit was at Hilaria Mukaruniga’s home. When she saw Faustin, Salome and Felistus, she was overwhelmed with joy for the sheep she received, which gave birth to two lambs. Hilaria is happy to be part of the women group. She is 60 years old married and blessed with 10 children. Hilaria said, “Having this sheep has helped me in my kitchen garden in terms of manure, and I can get good produce from the garden. My mixed vegetables are doing very well due to manure from my sheep.” She also said that the ewe getting twins has helped her kids who are now at home due to COVID -19 to get other activities to keep them busy by grazing the sheep and the lambs. After a period of two months, Hilaria will give the sheep to her partner in the group then she will remain with the young ones. In addition, Hilaria said “My husband who never used to see any importance of church, appreciates me being a member of the women group from the church and that has brought a difference in our family relations. In short, dignity and value before my husband came because of the sheep”. There is physical, emotional, and spiritual transformation in her life.
In conclusion, the trip was tiresome but encouraging. The women are very appreciative of TLAfrica thinking about them. They said they will keep praying for TLAfrica for more provision and keep supporting them to improve their condition of living by getting a source of income.